8 straight! Blue Jays close in with NY sweep

Bichette leads way as Toronto climbs to half-game back in Wild Card race

September 10th, 2021

NEW YORK -- The Blue Jays brought their brooms to the Bronx, sweeping the Yankees to continue their season-defining run.

Now winners of eight in a row and 11 of their last 12, this marked the Blue Jays’ first four-game sweep of the Yankees in the Bronx since 2003. was only 4 years old then, but he was the star of the show in Thursday’s 6-4 win that brought the Blue Jays within just a half-game of the Yankees for the second AL Wild Card spot.

Bichette was moved into the leadoff spot for the finale with still day-to-day, and it took one at-bat to make his manager look smart. Bichette turned on the ninth pitch of the game, his wild swing uncoiling in a blur, and launched a solo home run deep into the left-field bleachers of Yankee Stadium. It’s finally the Blue Jays’ turn to make other teams exhale and say, “Here we go again.”

This was the first time that a visiting team has swept the Yankees in a series of four-plus games at Yankee Stadium -- old or new -- without trailing in a game, according to STATS. That stretches all the way back to 1923, nearly a century of baseball.

“They’re never going to quit,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “We played on the road for nearly two years. We did it this year again in Dunedin, Buffalo. You can see our record in Toronto, what that does for us when you have people pulling for you. They never complained. That’s why we’re in this spot right now, because this team never complained. They’re already ready to play wherever we are. That’s why we’re here. That’s the team we have. No excuses.”

After a solo shot gave the Blue Jays some breathing room and Anthony Rizzo tied things up with a moonshot of his own, it was Bichette, again, who pushed the Blue Jays forward in the seventh. With Danny Jansen on second after a hustle double that can’t go overlooked, Bichette dropped a single into center for his 84th RBI of the season.

So much of the focus has rested on and -- rightfully so, for two AL MVP Award candidates -- but Bichette has had his moments, too.

“When everybody in the lineup was struggling before, a lot of guys felt like they needed to hit a two-run homer with nobody on base,” Bichette said. “It helps when other guys are doing well, but we’re just coming to the field every day and preparing to do the best to prepare to win. We’ll continue to do that.”

Bichette’s defense was rocky to open the season, as the 23-year-old seemed to be moving just a bit too quickly on routine plays, but that side of his game has steadily improved. On one of the best defensive plays of Thursday’s win, snagged a comeback grounder with a runner on first and turned to fire to Bichette, starting a double play. Berríos threw the ball to the base, which appeared unmanned, but there came Bichette like a wide receiver running a slant route, making the play the only way he knows how: full speed.

The final piece to this run has been something the Blue Jays lacked all season long, which is insurance runs late in games. This time, it came from Guerrero, who launched his 42nd home run of the season in the ninth inning.

Guerrero is now just one behind Shohei Ohtani for the MLB lead, and the solo shot gave him 100 RBIs on the season. After a brief dip in August, the breakout star of 2021 is all the way back.

Berríos was brilliant outside of the home run to Rizzo, coming back out for the seventh to finish with 109 pitches over 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball, striking out eight. That’s three strong outings in a row for Berríos, the July 30 Trade Deadline pickup who’s back to his rock-solid self. Like everything else with the September version of the Blue Jays, it’s happening at the best possible time, as Berríos says this energetic roster is giving “motivation and inspiration” to one another through the Wild Card race.

“This amazing group, they like to have fun out there, and it’s the most important thing,” Berríos said. “They have great ability and can do so many good things out there. They believe in themselves. I came here and joined that group having fun out there. I love this sport. Having a group like this motivates me to be me and do my work out there.”

Now off to Baltimore for four games in three days, the Blue Jays control their fate. This has been the best stretch of baseball the club has played since 2016, and it looks like the fun is just beginning.